Much is made in new age and pseudo-psychological circles of living in the “Now”. Much money has been made from the concept, books written and celebrity gained. Yet, what does it actually mean? Is it even possible to understand what the “Now” is? Never mind actually live in a state of constant awareness of it…
To start with, there is much misunderstanding. Hardly surprising.
In the minds of many, the “Now” sits somewhere on a line which represents a continuum between past and future. In some rudimentary way, the “Now” is regarded as the present, or, at very best, the smallest possible unit of what constitutes the present.
If we take a moment to consider it, there is one obvious difficulty with this model. The “Now”, irrespective of how small we divide the present moment, is a place of limbo. It is not quite the future, but constantly streams into the past; forming not what we wish to become, but, rather, the shadow of the latest we have been.
Even more alarming, is that such a model is, by its nature, restrictive. Rather than expanding the possibilities of the future moment, we find that the only step available lies on a singular path, defined by our past choices. The “Now”, like a bead on a string, moves from past to future along a line over which we have no control.
There is nothing to be found, then, in this concept of “Now”.
After all, by bringing awareness to the “Now”, our future possibilities are meant to expand; freeing us from the current limitations we feel exist in our lives. In the above model, there is no escape. We are merely able to observe our current misery as the time line of our lives continues to pass beneath us.
The “Now”, then, must be something else. The future spreads before us in a myriad of possibility. The “Now” that we seek, somehow, opens these possibilities for us.
Yet, we are still restricted. As fast as we can consider the “Now”, it streams into our past. The “Now” is impotent. The future spreads out before us, but in the moment of contemplation, the possibilities are pushed forward, ever beyond our reach. This, ever changing, “Now” offers no respite. We may be able to glimpse an array of alternative futures, but they cannot be grasped. They are fleeting, illusory hopes slipping into the past as fast as we are able to conceive them.
The “Now” which we seek can only be found outside our ability to comprehend it. The “Now” is beyond space and time; and yet is so finely interwoven within that fabric that, though it permeates all of creation, it can be so easily overlooked.
Eternal and constant, “Now” can only rightly be thought of as the point of pure potential, existing beyond the event horizon of the present moment. It is not yet the future. It is dissociated from the past. We cannot see it beyond the barrier of the present.
Of course, there is a significant problem with this model too. Though we may perceive the past as a trail of consecutive events, one building on the other, leading in a straight line to the present moment, this is not the case. Every event on that linear, individual history is affected by multiple past events, many of which we are not even be aware of, most of which are completely out of our personal control. The accident of our birth, the economic situation in some far flung part of the world, the collision of cosmic radiation as it passes through our cell walls… all limit, or expand, the future possibilities which can open before us. A more correct model takes all past events into consideration:
As a model, it may appear to bring into doubt the assertions of the gurus of “Now”. At this point, I must confess to having never actually read (well, certainly, not all the way through) any of the works of these self styled gurus. However, the “Now” is not some remote, inaccessible esoteric ideal, completely unreachable by the average person.
Look at the model again. The key to being in the “Now” should be obvious.
The present is naught more than a distillation of all activity that has come before. In the process, both the present moment, and the past itself, become fixed and immutable. The past merely serves to clarify the present. It is entirely passive and inert.
The activity of the present is an illusion. The present is a void which straddles the passive nature of the past, and the active nature of the future. The activity we perceive in the moment is nothing more than a reflection of the infinite potential of the future becoming fixed as actual events of the past.
The issue that most people face is that the past seems more real, and alive, than any of the infinite, potential futures unseen over the event horizon of the present moment. It is easier, then, to become fixated on the past; with all its disappointments, its triumphs, its comforts. We spend much time and energy animating, and reanimating, events over which we no longer have any control. They cannot be changed, they are powerless.
Living in the “Now”, is to turn our backs on the past. Entirely. The present is acknowledgement enough of what has come before. Becoming lost in the events which led to the current moment, we lose sight of the potential yet to unfold.
Living in the “Now” is to embrace our fullest potential, recognising that it only exists in the active nature of future events.
Living in the “Now” is to leap beyond the void.
What has this got to do with the Shaman? Hopefully the next post will make some sense of it… and the last post give a clue…